Charlotte Luke: writing truth through fiction | 29 March 2023
For our first member blog post, Charlotte Luke reflects on how her writing process has transformed during her time with the DeathWrites Network
Last year, around 8 months after my dad died in a hillwalking accident, I heard about the DeathWrites Network, a group of writers tackling the subjects of death, dying and bereavement in their work. I applied to be part of the group, finding the idea of meeting other people who were in the same or a similar boat very appealing. It has been fascinating to track the process of how I have approached writing about my dad’s death, and how that process has evolved over time, along with my grief. When I was first part of the Network, I was determined to write as truthfully as I could about what had happened. I wanted to strip everything away to the bones and leave them gleaming. This, it turned out, was not easy.
When my dad died, I wished I had something to read written by somebody newly bereaved, like me. Not by seasoned ‘griefsters’ (to borrow a word coined by the wonderful Cariad Lloyd, whose podcast ‘Griefcast’ is now one of my best friends); people years and decades down the line. I was not interested in ‘this will get easier with time’, because I did not want to accept that ‘this’ was reality. I railed at what I perceived as their smugness. Time meant nothing to me when I was trying my hardest to crawl through a single day without my dad, when I visualised every minute that passed as a train taking me further and further away from him.
I wanted resources from people in the same boat as me; I wanted people to acknowledge how unwaveringly rubbish everything was. That would be DeathWrites for me, I decided. Fresh in my grief, I would write the words I wished I could have referred to in the desperate first few weeks.
Of course, when I sat down to do just that, I realised why there is a lack of resources by the newly bereaved. It is one thing to sit alone with a new grief, and quite another to write it down and engage with it on a critical level. My initial project was going to be a sift through my diaries from the time of the accident, commenting on each entry a year later. When it came to it, though, this seemed about as appealing as picking through a chicken carcass on the turn. Fiction, I decided, was the way to go.
In July it will be two years since my dad’s death. I wrote a story called ‘A Buzzard on the Wing’ last year which was accepted by Scottish Mountaineering Press’s ‘Creatives’ initiative. The story was inspired by my frustrations with the people I thought should have known better than to say some of the things they said after Dad’s death. I am now working on further fictional explorations of grief, and am grateful for how fiction can be a balm for reality.
Charlotte Luke is a writer based in Inverness. She recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English, and now works on the youth programme at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. Her work has appeared in various short story and flash fiction anthologies.